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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 3, November/December 2004

December 6: Don’t just remember, organize!

by Jane Turner

A friend sent me a copy of an article by Lee Lakeman, of Vancouver Rape Relief. Lakeman wrote the article a number of years ago, but it resonates today. The article is entitled "Women, Violence, and the Montreal Massacre."

December 6, 1989. Hard to believe it is 15 years ago that Marc Lepine entered l’Ecole Polytechnique and murdered 14 women: Geneviève Bergeron, Annie Burcotte, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Maria Klueznik, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclerc, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, and Annie St.-Arneault,

It was not, as so many wrote, an "incomprehensible act of violence." For women all over the world, it was indeed comprehensible. The murderer hated women, feminists in particular, and he acted on that hatred. Just like the person who killed so many women whose DNA has been found on a farm in Port Coquitlam. Just like Jack the Ripper. There are too many other ‘just likes’ for us to believe it was a random act of violence. Lakeman’s article provides the analysis that violence against women in our society is systemic and as such must be opposed through the organization of women—in women’s groups, rape crisis centres and shelters, and other feminist political groupings.

What does this have to do with us, teachers and students in the schools of British Columbia? For almost 25 years, the BCTF had a Status of Women Program. The aim of the program was to achieve equality for men and women. As a member of the S/W committee and a local contact, I was part of a network of women throughout the province who worked for almost three decades to eliminate sex discrimination from our work and personal lives. We failed. Sex discrimination still exists. There is much work that remains for us to do in our communities and through our BCTF Social Justice programs.

Women are still murdered for being women. Women are still abused, battered, and raped because they are women. Recently The Vancouver Sun ran an article about women still getting fired for being pregnant. As well, it ran a story about girls and women being taught to accept their lot in life as good wives and mothers, then to be trafficked as ‘wives’ for fundamentalist Mormons. Women are still being targeted in the workplace for layoffs and reduced pay; just ask the members of HEU, predominantly women. Governments are still cutting back programs that protect and support women and children.

Then there are the women of popular culture. If I hear one more young person tell me it doesn’t mean anything when rap songs or hip hop videos refer to women as bitches and whores (oops sorry, that’s hos) I may completely lose it. As Sue Montebello, an administrator from Burnaby, said at last year’s professional-day conference, "Words enter your soul." The images and words of popular culture have entered our souls, collectively and individually, and our souls are suffering.

On December 6, please remember the women who were killed in Montreal, but do more than remember. Use the anniversary of the death of those 14 women to spur on work that helps us eliminate the same roots of misogyny that caused the Montreal massacre. In your local association, in your classroom, December 6 should be a day of action; a day to begin or continue organizing to eliminate sex discrimination.

Jane Turner is an assistant director in the BCTF’s Professional and Social Issues Division.

NFB Film

A new film called After the Montreal Massacre is available for $49.95. For audiences 15 years and older, order from www.nfb.ca.